A River's Legacy: Earth Day Reflections from The Kitchen

April 19, 2024

Just a stone’s throw away from Second Harvest’s front door lies one of this region’s landmark natural resources, the Spokane River. For generations, people of the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel, and Nez Perce Tribes, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation were stewards of this land, including the river. These tribal peoples depended on Coho and Chinook salmon that allowed them to feed their families, as well as introduce variety to their diet, like bison, through trading with the people of the Great Plains tribes. The river flows for over 100 miles, beginning in Lake Coeur d’Alene and emptying into the Columbia River at Roosevelt Lake, and has sustained communities along its banks for as long as we can remember.

The Spokane River also has a history of over 100 years of pollution caused by mining, synthetic chemicals, and stormwater runoff, mostly between 1880 and 1980. Spokane was not the only area affected; many cities and communities across the United States suffered from unchecked pollution well into the 1970s. Eventually, a senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson recognized that his community was also being hurt by pollution, and he organized a nationwide demonstration of over twenty million Americans to raise awareness about the environment. This was on April 22nd, 1970- the first Earth Day. The very same year, a new federal agency was created to handle environmental issues known as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Since then we have made significant strides in reducing pollution and adding environmental protections, but the impacts of years of unchecked pollution and deforestation are still being felt to this day. For one thing, the once abundant Coho and Chinook salmon populations have nearly disappeared, and are just starting to be slowly reintroduced by collaborative efforts between local tribes and jurisdictions. That’s why we continue to celebrate Earth Day every year by taking small steps to reduce our impact on our environment and preserve it for future generations. And here in The Kitchen, we know that preventing food waste is one of the most impactful steps we can take toward becoming better stewards of our environment.

This year for Earth Day, consider your household’s kitchen habits. Do you throw food away regularly? Could you donate or compost that food instead? Do you need to find new ways of storing or preserving your food to stretch its lifespan? For tips on cutting back on your food waste at home, visit https://secondharvestkitchen.org/food-waste/, or check our calendar for our community waste reduction class schedule.  

Author: Emily Menshew, Team Member